Lately, it seems like art wants to become affordable. In the past few days, New York hosted “The Affordable Art Fair” – an international and seasonal showcase that takes place in Midtown Manhattan (until this Sunday May 8th) – as well as other collateral exhibitions along the same concept, such as the show at the Sacred Gallery in Chinatown.
First and foremost, affordable is not a synonym for cheap, when the term refers not only to price but also to quality. In fact, as soon as I started walking around the Fair’s aisles I got more and more surprised by the high level of the art on display.
I went for the preview and those rather exclusive events are pretty interesting because la crème de la crème of the art world is there: collectors, dealers, artists, curators, critics, journalists. Basically, it’s not only an art exhibition, but also very much a social one. But contrarily to the usual tight-ass vibe you get at art fairs, the affordable art fair’s preview had a quite laid back atmosphere.
Gallerists acted kinda like the merchants of the Istanbul Gran Bazaar: happy and eager to show and sell their wonderful products, talking to everybody, no highbrow look, making keen jokes, smiley and cordial.
Being a NY curator myself and so familiar with the local art crowd, this time I saw a lot of new faces and, for once, happy and chill. People were talking, laughing, drinking, all relaxed and friendly. From established to rookie collectors, everybody was buying. Prices were going from 100 to 10,000 dollars.
The best part was that the art was overall not only affordable but pretty original and amazing! Fresh, smart, ironic, thoughtful, funny, crafty, beautiful, quality art.
The next day I went to Sacred Gallery, an exhibition space within Sacred Tattoo parlor. It was a one-off collective art show aimed to raise funds for Japan after the Fukushima Tsunami. Artworks’ prices ranged from 50 to 200 dollars. On display photographs, watercolors, drawings and paintings.
When I got there, about an hour after it opened, most of the pieces where already sold. The crowd was mixed: young and hip, older and proper, but with something in common: they could all afford to buy art.
I believe that making contemporary art affordable is a great thing for several reasons:
1) It turns art and the art world from elitist to democratic ( if some dealers would read this they’d probably shoot me in the face LOL!)
2) Young emerging artists have more chances to show and sell their work and, in turn, start competing with giant established names.
3) It broadens art active audience: more people can participate to the art world instead of being just spectators.
4) It keeps the art business moving and in new unexpectedly profitable directions.
So thumbs up for the Affordable Art Fair and to affordable art galleries.